Maritime Museums of Massachusetts’ South Shore


December 10, 2023

Massachusetts’s south shore has a long and noble maritime history, which is shown by its abundance of incredible maritime museums. If the history of shipbuilding, whaling, and Massachusetts’ relationship with the sea intrigues you, these museums need to be on your list.

Battleship Cove

If you love battleships, you need to visit Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA. Open seven days a week, you’ll get to check out the world’s largest collection of historic naval ships. Home to five National Historic Landmark Naval Ships, you’ll get self-guided tours of the USS Massachusetts battleship and the USS Lionfish submarine. You’ll even experience what it was like to serve on board a Navy warship during WWII and the Vietnam War.

If you’re visiting Friday through Sunday, The Maritime Museum at Battleship Cove is a must-see. This museum’s collection includes uniforms, audio recordings, videos, and more. In fact, there’s even the 28ft-long scale model of the RMS Titanic, which was used in the film Titanic made by Twentieth Century Fox in 1953.

The deck of a battleship at Battleship Cove in Fall River at sunset

Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum

A true gem of local history, the Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum is all about Scituate, MA’s relationship with the sea. Six permanent exhibits tell the stories of triumph, tribulations, technological advancements, and resilience of the sailors of Scituate.

When you visit the museum, you’ll see exhibits that cover the major maritime topics of the area. On the first floor, the Shipwreck Room highlights the devastation and remarkable frequency of shipwrecks off the South Shore. The Lifesaving Room pays tribute to the ingenuity and courage of early lifeboat volunteers in the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A trip to the Irish Mossing Room acquaints visitors with the backbreaking work of hauling Irish moss up from the ocean floor. 

Upstairs, the Ship Captain’s Room is a period room full of artifacts from renowned local captains. Meanwhile, the Shipbuilding Room traces the 250-year history of shipbuilding on the North River where the Essex, which inspired the ship in Moby Dick, was crafted. In the Front Room, you’ll find a compelling display featuring the museum’s ongoing archaeological expedition of the 1853 wreck of the Forest Queen.

New Bedford Whaling Museum

New Bedford, MA was considered one of the world’s most important whaling ports during the early 19th century. The New Bedford Whaling Museum lets you discover the rich history, art, science, and culture of whaling and the South Shore.

Come see the world’s largest collections of scrimshaws, whaling logbooks, and journals. View famous paintings of voyages. This includes a digital replica of America’s longest painting – the “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World.” Learn about whale biology, ecology, behavior, and conservation. Get up close to a massive whale skeleton. It’s an incredible museum where you can spend a day or more and still not view everything.

Whaling museum scrimshaw art

Hull Lifesaving Museum

The Hull Lifesaving Museum in Hull, MA preserves the region’s lifesaving traditions and maritime culture through collections, exhibits, and special programs. This museum features rotating maritime exhibits that showcase famous storms, lighthouse artifacts, local shipwrecks, and more from their impressive collection. 

Beyond just exhibits, the Hull Lifesaving Museum offers life-changing and life-saving youth development experiences. Its open water rowing programs help local youth learn the deeds, traditions, and ethics of 19th century local lifesavers.

Massachusetts’ south shore has always had an important relationship with the sea, and the local maritime museums showcase it beautifully. The next time you’re planning a weekend getaway, be sure to add a few of these museums to your itinerary.